Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has highlighted the differences between newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton following their title scrap last year.
Verstappen defeated Hamilton on the very last lap of the season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December following a controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi.
The Australian allowed just the five lapped cars between the leaders through with one lap to go of the race, leaving the rest of the lapped runners in their position.
Ultimately though, this was the tip of the iceberg in what was an extraordinarily dramatic and contentious championship battle between two rivals who exemplified the fiery competition that epitomises Formula 1.
Contact between the pair always looked likely in the early stage of the season, before things ultimately boiled over at the British Grand Prix in July.
The rivals made contact on the first lap, sending Verstappen into the wall in what was a heavy 51G crash.
Shots were fired after the Briton then won his home race, with Verstappen angered by the vibrant celebrations from Mercedes while he was in the hospital following the hefty collision.
“Glad I’m okay,” the Dutchman tweeted in the aftermath of the eventful day in Silverstone.
“Very disappointed with being taken out like this. The penalty given does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track.
“Watching the celebrations while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour but we move on.”
More contact occurred at the Italian Grand Prix two months later, and Verstappen’s Red Bull car ended up mounted on Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The 24-year-old then pushed the seven-time world champion of the circuit in Brazil and escaped penalty for this.
The pair collided yet again in Saudi Arabia while Verstappen attempted to allow his rival through having pushed him off the circuit.
Generally, Red Bull started the year much stronger before a resurgence from Mercedes – coupled with a monumental late effort in the year from Hamilton – made for a season of racing that will be spoken about for decades.
Dr Marko has praised Mercedes’ improvements as the season wore on.
“Mercedes came back and Hamilton became stronger and stronger,” he said.
He then detailed a key difference between the two drivers, in that Verstappen’s attention is more centred on racing, while Hamilton’s gaze has frequently been cast away over recent years.
“There is the seven-time world champion who leads a rather media-loving life,” added the Austrian.
He then aimed another subtle dig by calling his Dutch driver “down to earth,” adding that he is “only focused on the sport.”
He maintains that this is just one of “so many opposites” between the rivals.
Verstappen became Red Bull’s first champion since Sebastian Vettel in 2013, while Mercedes wrapped up their record-eighth Constructors’ Championship last year.
Doubt has been cast over whether or not Hamilton will return to Formula 1 in 2022 following his defeat to Verstappen, but both the Dutchman and Dr Marko believe he will stay despite the rumours.